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First Read: What We Learned About 2016 This Week

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter

What we learned from this week’s NBC/WSJ poll

Our NBC/WSJ poll this week had so many great storylines and interesting nuggets, it’s worth recapping everything we learned from it:

  • Hillary Clinton remains formidable, despite her fav/unfav rating falling to a net-even 42%-42%
  • All of the 2016 GOP candidates the poll tested had net-negative fav/unfavs: Rubio (22%-23%), Walker (15%-17%), Paul (23%-28%), Jeb Bush (23%-36%), Ted Cruz (17%-32%);
  • Jeb Bush is leading the national GOP field, but he has a problem with conservatives (some context for his upcoming Liberty University speech);
  • Democratic voters’ top issue is the economy; GOP voters’ is security/terrorism;
  • Two of the lowest-scored presidential candidate qualities: not having a college degree and not having previous elected experience in government;
  • The country -- especially the Democratic Party -- is more pro-free trade than it’s been in years;
  • 58% of Americans support gays and lesbians to have a constitutional right to marriage;
  • And finally, the most popular political figure in the poll -- Barack Obama (47%-40% fav/unfav), and his approval rating is now up to 48%.

Tories win big in Great Britain -- but Cameron now faces two big challenges

“Prime Minister David Cameron enjoyed a surprise triumph in the British election Friday as his Conservative Party won a narrow outright victory over a faltering opposition,” per NBC News. “The result lifted a fog of uncertainty but leaves Britain facing two constitutional crises: a potentially damaging referendum on whether to quit the European Union, and renewed pressure from Scottish nationalists who want to leave the 300-year-old United Kingdom.”

The polls were way off in Great Britain

What we also learned from the British elections: The polls were way off. The British media use weak methodology in their polling. Here’s the question for Americans: If everyone begins to turn to C+ (at best) methodology, what does that mean for our political industry?

Back to solid job growth in April

Good news on the jobs front: “U.S. employers added 223,000 jobs in April, a solid gain that suggests the economy may be recovering after stumbling at the start of the year, “ the AP writes. “The Labor Department says the unemployment rate fell to 5.4 percent from 5.5 percent in March. That is the lowest level since May 2008, six months into the Great Recession. Yet the report included signs of sluggishness: March's already-tepid job gain was revised sharply lower, to just 85,000 from 126,000. In the past three months, employers have added 191,000 positions, a decent gain but down from last year's average of 260,000.”

Jeb says his brother is his top adviser on U.S.-Israel relations

Back in February, Jeb Bush declared “I’m my own man” as he laid out his foreign-policy vision. But now he’s telling people that his most influential adviser on U.S.-Israel policy is … his brother, George W. Bush. “After spending months distancing himself from his family’s political legacy, Jeb Bush surprised a group of Manhattan financiers this week by naming his brother, former president George W. Bush, as his most influential counselor on U.S.-Israel policy,” the Washington Post says. “‘If you want to know who I listen to for advice, it’s him,’ Bush said Tuesday, speaking to a crowd of high-powered investors at the Metropolitan Club, according to four people present.” Some of the context here: The remark came as part of an answer to a question about Bush’s political aides and their policy views, and whether he relies on the guidance of former secretary of state James Baker, guests said.” Baker, of course, angered conservative U.S. Israel hawks after he spoke to the left-leaning Jewish group J Street, and after he criticized Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. An observation: The GOP has come a LONG way when someone like Jim Baker is considered a pariah in the party.

Senate overwhelmingly passes Iran bill

By a 98-1 vote on Thursday, the Senate overwhelmingly passed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, a bill which requires the president to submit any final nuclear deal with Iran to Congress before being able to waive or suspend congressional sanctions, NBC’s Frank Thorp reports. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) was the only Senator to vote no. The bill now goes to the House, Thorp adds, where House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has said the bill will get a vote and should have bipartisan support. But where’s why the Obama White House isn’t too worried about the congressional review. The New York Times: “In the event that Congress would vote to disapprove a deal, Mr. Obama would most likely veto it. But the White House believes the president will retain enough support that Congress would not be able to override his veto. One hundred and fifty House Democrats have now signed a letter expressing support for the ongoing negotiations with Iran.”

Trading places

Who’d have thought trade policy would be a 2016 political football? Earlier this week, Mike Huckabee came out strongly against TPP, saying that workers would “take it in the backside” if the deal passes. And in an appearance on Laura Ingraham’s show yesterday, Carly Fiorina said that she’s “very uncomfortable” with giving the president fast-track authority, citing worries about the Chinese. Those two are at odds with most of the rest of party, which has tended to be generally pro-trade. Even Fiorina has blasted the president in the past for failing to work on international trade deals; in September 2012, she told CNN “There is such a vast difference between President Clinton, who was aggressively promoting trade, who aggressively worked with Republicans, who aggressively balanced the budget. And President Obama, who has done less to negotiate free trade agreements than any president in modern history.” As we’ve written before, based on a big Democratic shift in favor of trade, particularly among minority voters, it doesn’t seem like Hillary Clinton will be punished too much by the Democratic base if she bucks progressives and eventually embraces the deal. If she doesn’t, it’ll make for some strange bedfellows.

On the trail today

Ben Carson is in South Carolina… Hillary Clinton raises money in Silicon Valley… Chris Christie remains in New Hampshire… Carly Fiorina also is in the Granite State… Mike Huckabee is in South Carolina… And Rick Perry is in New Hampshire.

On “Meet the Press” this Sunday

NBC’s Chuck Todd will interview newly minted presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, and he’ll also have a discussion on the “State of the Mother” for this Mother’s Day.

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